Super Bowl or Bust: Why the “Revenge Tour” Must End with a Lombardi Trophy
Sunday, January 29th, 1995.
That was the last time the San Francisco 49ers hoisted up the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy. That breaks down to 25 years and six months from today. Or 306 months. Or 1,332 weeks. Or 9,225 days.
However you want to look at it, one thing is for certain, that is far too long of a Super Bowl drought for one of the more elite organizations in the NFL.
Close but no cigar -- that is a short but accurate way to describe the 2019 season in regards to ending the championship drought.
With the “Revenge Tour” about a month away from starting (hopefully), the 49ers are in a prime position to win their sixth Super Bowl. The expectation the team should be held to is doing just that. Anything less is a failed season and a missed opportunity.
That is a lot of pressure to put on a team, but the future holds too many unknowns to feel confident that they could get right back to where they belong. That’s why achieving the highest level of success is a must for this season.
You simply can’t look beyond this season
The state of the world today does not grant you the ability to look beyond what is immediately in front of you. COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the world, including the NFL. This pandemic has a great chance to completely jeopardize the championship caliber roster John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have worked so hard to sustain.
Due to loss of revenue, the salary cap for next season may drop as low as $175 million. Lynch recently said they were preparing for the cap to be in the $215-220 million range, which is a drastic difference.
According to Spotrac, the 49ers already have roughly $171.5 million allocated to next year's salary cap. That means the team could potentially only start out with $3.5 million in cap space. If the cap does drop down to that $175 million figure, things could really go south.
The reality is the roster could take major hits going into the 2021 season. Stars like George Kittle, Trent Williams, and Richard Sherman are all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Additional starters who play extremely important roles like Kyle Juszczyk, K’Waun Williams, and Jaquiski Tartt are also set to hit the market.
It is not going to be easy to retain the kind of stardom the 49ers currently possess. The team did a great job efficiently finding replacements for DeForest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders, but it won't be as easy next offseason.
When the team acquired Williams from Washington, they gave up a 2020 third-round pick. That means they will only have two picks within the first 100 selections of the draft, which of course could change with some trades.
Nonetheless, they could potentially be extremely limited on both cap space and draft capital. All the unknowns regarding the roster beyond this season, make it all the more important to win it all now.
Winning the Super Bowl is the expectation
When talking about getting back to the Super Bowl, Shanahan said the following at the team’s virtual State of the Franchise event,
“I know we were good enough to win that Super Bowl and we didn’t, and that’s something we have to live with, and that’s why the state of the franchise right now is we got to get right back to that moment. We gotta get right back to that fourth quarter and get to have a lead and we got to finish the job.”
Shanahan is absolutely right. They have to get back right back to that moment, because if they don’t this season, who knows when they will. Everything is lined up beautifully for the team to get it done. Here are a few examples:
82% starter retention
Looking at both offense and defense, the 49ers have 18 starters returning at 22 positions. They arguably even got better at two of the positions, with Trent Williams stepping in for Joe Staley and a new right guard stepping in for Mike Person, who was the weak link of the offensive line last year.
The other two starters that were lost, Buckner and Sanders, are figured to be replaced later on in the season by first-round picks Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk.
The high retention rate is a huge advantage, considering the shortened offseason.
Jimmy Garoppolo full year No. 2
From Matt Schaub to Matt Ryan, we’ve seen tremendous jumps from Shanahan’s quarterbacks in their second full year starting in his system.
- Matt Schuab ‘08 (6-5 record): 3,043 yards - 15 touchdowns - 10 interceptions
- *Matt Schaub ‘09* (9-7 record): 4,770 yards - 29 touchdowns - 15 interceptions
*Led league in passing yards*
- Matt Ryan ‘15 (8-8 record): 4,591 yards - 21 touchdowns - 16 interceptions
- *Matt Ryan ‘16* (11-5 record): 4,944 yards - 38 touchdowns - 7 interceptions
- Jimmy Garoppolo ‘19 (13-3 record): 3,978 yards - 27 touchdowns - 13 interceptions
Assuming Garoppolo has a stronger second season, like Shanahan’s previous quarterbacks, that all but ensures the team will experience similar success as last season. If Garoppolo doesn’t make those strides, it’ll be a major disappointment.
Last season, the 49ers learned to finish off and win games -- something they struggled with the previous two years under Shanahan. They came within 10 minutes of being crowned champions, and know exactly what it takes to get there. Having made it to and then losing the Super Bowl adds that motivation and urgency to complete unfinished business.
The 49ers are a damn good football team. On paper, they may just be the best in the league. This is a team that should find themselves right back in the Super Bowl, and they should be critiqued as such.
If not this season, when? The future holds too many unknowns. The “Revenge Tour” must live up to its purpose, and conclude with a sixth championship trophy.
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